Kavala: The case that set Turkey on collision course with the West

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It’s the letters that maintain Ayse Bugra – handwritten by her husband Osman Kavala, who’s encircled by jail partitions.

The gaunt curly-haired philanthropist has spent the previous 4 years behind bars although he has been convicted of nothing.

The European Courtroom of Human Rights says the 64-year-old has been held to silence him as a human rights defender. Human rights organisations say his case is the tip of the iceberg in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkey.

His spouse of 33 years, a famend tutorial who’s slight and softly spoken, can go to him twice a month. A glass panel separates them, due to Covid. The written phrase reunites them.

"We attempt to learn the identical books," she says. "We write to one another, we share our ideas, we share what we’re studying. We attempt to reside, after all."

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'His absence is in every single place'

Osman Kavala has confronted a merry-go-round of costs.

Ates Alpar

He was first accused of orchestrating and financing nationwide anti-government protests that erupted in 2013. He was acquitted, however inside hours there have been new allegations of spying and of being a part of the tried coup in 2016 – "specious costs" in response to the US state division.

His book-lined workplace stays because it was on the time of his arrest – full of framed artworks, sculptures and towering piles of paperwork. "His absence is in every single place," says his spouse, glancing across the room.

"He may hear properly and he would attempt to perceive. He at all times felt he may speak to anybody. Dialogue was essential for him to construct bridges between folks. My husband continued to try this even within the midst of an escalating polarisation within the nation."

Turkish soldiers stand guard at the entrance of the Silivri district prison in Istanbul (file pic)Getty Pictures

From his cell in Silivri jail on the outskirts of Istanbul, Mr Kavala instructed the BBC that the judiciary was "getting used as a instrument for retribution according to the priorities of the federal government". He despatched written replies to our questions.

"After the failed coup in 2016 being arrested with out tangible proof, and being expelled from jobs within the public sector, grew to become commonplace observe," he wrote. "The best way Turkey is being ruled in the mean time doesn’t appear to be an actual democracy."

If and when he will get out of jail, he admits he could not really feel fully free.

Osman Kavala Anadolu Kultur

Once I'm launched I'll really feel obliged to suppose extra fastidiously, to search out the suitable phrases to specific my ideas. I'll in all probability select to remain silent about some points for some timeOsman Kavala
Writing to the BBC from jail

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Might he be freed quickly?

The subsequent listening to is on Friday. Ayse Bugra says she at all times "tries to not hope, as hope results in despair".

His continued detention has put Turkey on a collision course with its Western allies, and with the Council of Europe – one thing that Turkey's combative chief doesn’t seem to thoughts.

The Council has threatened to start uncommon infringement proceedings if he isn’t freed by the tip this month. Finally, this might result in Turkey being expelled from the 47-nation human rights physique.

It's two years because the European Courtroom of Human Rights issued a binding ruling calling for Mr Kavala's launch. Ten Western ambassadors right here not too long ago echoed that decision and had been briefly threatened with expulsion.

President Erdogan has been on the offensive, attacking the court docket and deriding him for his hyperlinks to billionaire philanthropist George Soros.

"The European Courtroom of Human Rights gave a call," he mentioned. "They need to convict Turkey concerning this Soros leftover. Do you launch bandits, killers or terrorists in your nation?" he requested.

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The Turkish chief has beforehand likened justice to a plant. "Underwatering a plant will dry it up whereas overwatering will make it wilt," he mentioned in March, saying a "human rights motion plan".

Worldwide human rights organisations say the true plan right here is to dismantle human rights protections and undermine the rule of regulation.

"There's a hollowing out of democracy," says Emma Sinclair-Webb of Human Rights Watch in Istanbul. "Tens of 1000’s have been put in detention on bogus terrorism costs. Turkey operates by locking up its critics."

The police got here for veteran human rights campaigner Gunal Kursun when he and fellow activists had been at a workshop, on human rights, in July 2017.

"The door opened," he mentioned, "and it was 'hands-up it is a raid' and we had been detained. It was an amazing shock for me and my mates. For the previous 20 years we had been observing folks taken into custody however for the primary time it occurred to us."

Demonstrators clash with Turkish riot police over jailing of three opposition MPs from HDP in June 2020Getty ImagesJailed in Turkey

  • 2,532 life phrases following failed 2016 coup

  • 4,000jailed from pro-Kurdish HDP occasion

  • 3,625imprisoned for insulting the president

  • 67journalists in jail

Sources: Anadolu company; EU, Turkish justice ministry, IFJ

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Dr Kursun, who’s a legal lawyer, quickly discovered himself in the identical jail as Osman Kavala. After greater than 100 days behind bars, he’s now free – at the very least on paper – pending an attraction in opposition to a two-year sentence for aiding a terrorist organisation.

It damage to be accused of terrorism, he mentioned, however he had loads of firm.

"There are a whole bunch of 1000’s of individuals going through this sort of foolish allegation," he instructed me, "and Turkish prisons are full of those varieties of individuals. So I used to be not alone and it was the one factor that cured me."

After we met on a sunny morning, on the shores of the Bosporus, he was well dressed just like the skilled he was, however his world has shrunk. As of late the 46-year outdated is in a jail with out partitions.

Gunal KursunBBC

They don't let me lecture. They don't let me practise regulation. They don't let me write. As of immediately, they only let me breatheGunal Kursun
Human rights campaigner

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He was faraway from his submit as an assistant professor of legal regulation after the failed coup. Round 125,000 folks had been dismissed by decree in 2016, in response to official figures.

5 years on, Gunal Kursun is frightened about the place this nation is headed. The identical goes for Turkey's Western allies who see a transfer away from democratic values and freedom of speech.

"I imagine that if this authorities carries on, Turkey shall be like Russia," he mentioned. "In some sense it has already occurred. Daily it’s getting more durable. Everytime you say one thing about human rights violations, you might be criminalised simply by the federal government."

We requested the Turkish authorities for an interview to debate worldwide issues about human rights right here, and the case of Osman Kavala. There was no response.

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